Archive for the ‘Techniques’ Category

My Little Pony Rainbow Layer Cake

Friday, April 24th, 2015
The Delicious Cake Design My Little Pony cake

The Delicious Cake Design My Little Pony cake!

I know, I know, I’ve been really slack. It’s been almost a year, A YEAR, since I wrote a blog post. Many many things have happened during this time, some good, some bad, which prevented me from writing posts. I won’t go into it here as this blog is about all things cake, not all things me :). So, onto the cake!

A slice of the rainbow cake from my My Little Pony cake

A slice of the rainbow cake from my My Little Pony cake

I’ve made a lot of cakes over the past year which hopefully I will be able to blog about in due course. But my first post in 2015 will be about my most recent cake as it’s theme is from one of my favourite TV shows, My Little Pony! My Little Pony has changed a lot since I was a kid, the Cartoon Network TV show is AWESOME and it’s one I actually like watching with my 3 year old daughter. So when I was asked to make a My Little Pony cake for a 4th birthday I was delighted. pinkie_pie_and_rainbow_dash__gameloft_game_app__by_pinkamenaspy-d6264j1

The birthday girl’s favourite ponies are Pinkie Pie and Rainbow Dash so she wanted sugar figures of them. The only other request was for a 10″ rainbow layer cake. The rest of the cake I was free to design myself (love being given creative freedom!).

I decided on a design then started to work on making the ponies from gumpaste. I learned that using dry spaghetti as support was not an option as their heads are quite heavy and unlike a human don’t sit centrally in the middle of the figure, they stick out away from the body on one side. I ended up having one pony’s head fall off and rip the body on it’s way down when the spaghetti inserted in the neck and through the head broke. And this was after 2 days of drying! So I switched to toothpicks for support. I also had to anchor the ponies to a foam block with toothpicks through the leg that went into the block as the heads were so top heavy the ponies kept falling forward.

I was pretty happy with my finished ponies, though in hindsight I think I would have liked to do Pinkie’s hair slightly differently.

Hand crafted gumpaste Pinkie Pie and Rainbow Dash

Hand crafted gumpaste Pinkie Pie and Rainbow Dash

Hand crafted gumpaste Rainbow Dash and Pinkie Pie from the other side

Hand crafted gumpaste Rainbow Dash and Pinkie Pie from the other side

I then went on to make a rainbow from rolled strips of fondant in red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet. I left that to dry overnight then created clouds with white gumpaste and anchored the rainbow ends into the clouds using royal icing so the rainbow was standing up.

Fondant rainbow and gumpaste clouds

Fondant rainbow and gumpaste clouds

Next up was the actual baking. I hadn’t actually made a rainbow layer cake before, to be honest it was a bit of a pain. I only have three 10″ round tins so I decided to only do 6 layers of colour rather than 7 (for as we all know rainbows have 7 colours). I made up half a batch of 10″ sponge cake batter then divided it into 3 bowls, weighing each bowl to make sure the batter was distributed evenly. I then coloured the batter in each bowl with a different coloured gel paste (I’ve found these work much better than liquid food colouring in cakes).

Some of the AmeriColor gel pastes I used to make the rainbow cake

Some of the AmeriColor gel pastes I used to make the rainbow cake

I started off with Sugaflair Red Extra, AmeriColor Lemon Yellow, and Wilton Orange. I made the colours very intense as I wanted a bright and colourful cake. I found the colour of the batter was true to the colour of the baked cake. I baked these in the oven, it didn’t take long as each tin had such a small amount of batter (about 20mins at 160 deg celsius). When they were done I washed the tins, re-lined them, and made another half batch of 10″ sponge. Again I weighed them out evenly into 3 bowls then coloured with AmeriColor Leaf Green, AmeriColor Sky Blue and AmeriColor Electric Purple then baked.

The cakes were all about the same height due to weighing the batter to make sure each tin had the same amount, with flat tops so I didn’t need to level them with my trusty Agbay. I stacked the cake layers with vanilla buttercream between each layer and the cake turned out to be quite a monster! About 6 inches tall so by accident I’d created a double barrel cake lol. Next time I’d use maybe 3/4 the amount of batter to get a 4 inch tall cake.

Rainbow layer cake stacked and ready for ganache

Rainbow layer cake stacked and ready for ganache

I then set about ganaching the cake, I decided to use white chocolate ganache as kids tend to like it better. The sponge was quite crumbly so I did a rough crumb coat then refrigerated it for 20 minutes, then did the “proper” ganache coat.

Double barrel 10" rainbow layer cake ganached with white chocolate ganache.

Double barrel 10″ rainbow layer cake ganached with white chocolate ganache.

After the ganache set overnight I covered the cake with white fondant. I also covered the cake board with purple fondant, cut out hearts from the fondant on the board, then dropped in hearts made from leftover strips of fondant from making the rainbow. I like to let the fondant on the cake and board dry overnight before transferring the cake to the cake board, securing it with royal icing.

I printed out an edible image of the little girl’s name in the My Little Pony logo (I had made the logo design earlier on my computer), stuck it on some purple fondant, cut it out with my Exacto knife and stuck it to the front of the cake. I cut out some purple fondant hearts and stuck them on opposite corners of the logo. Then I secured the rainbow and clouds onto the cake with royal icing and placed the ponies in front of the rainbow. I didn’t use royal icing for them as the toothpicks coming out of their hooves did a good job of securing them. A bit of ribbon trim, and done! I know I’ve made it sound very straight forward but it actually took roughly 12 hours all up!

My Little Pony cake with hand crafted gumpaste ponies, rainbow and clouds.

My Little Pony cake with hand crafted gumpaste ponies, rainbow and clouds.

The cake was a huge hit at the party, the oohs and aahs when the kids first saw the cake and the excited exclamations when they saw the rainbow cake inside were magical :).

Review: THE MAT by Sweet Wise

Tuesday, April 9th, 2013

When I was on maternity leave and not making cakes, I thought I’d write a series of blog posts about some of the equipment and gadgets I can’t live without and write some reviews on new items I’ve tried recently. First review I decided to write was on The Mat which I bought just before I went on maternity leave. Here is my first impressions review which I wrote after the first time I used it, and then a more current update after several months of use.

The Mat is made by a cake decorating company called Sweet Wise in Nashville. They market it as “The Ultimate Fondant Application System”. The Mat consists of two 30″ x 30″ sheets of food safe vinyl made in the US. Basically the way it works is you roll out the fondant in between these two vinyl mats then peel off the top layer and flip the bottom layer with the fondant stuck to it onto your cake to cover it.

I bought The Mat because I was having trouble rolling out fondant for my larger cakes. My rolling out board just wasn’t big enough now that I had made the adjustment to 4″ high cakes instead of 3″ high cakes (see blog post Sydney Style vs London Style of Cake Decorating). I couldn’t find a board any bigger than the one I have, but after some Googling I came across forum mentions of The Mat.

What intrigued me about The Mat is that it works in a similar way to a silicone pastry mat, but has an additional top layer. This prevents dust and little fibres from getting into your fondant and also stops it from drying out. When rolling out a big piece of fondant I often have trouble with it drying out as it takes so long to roll it. Plus, with a baby pending, it’s nice to know you can stop in the middle of rolling out, walk away to attend to your child, then come back without having to worry about your fondant drying out. Sweet Wise also claimed that keeping the fondant fresh and moist would help stop tearing and ripping, which is another problem I’ve been having recently along the top edge of my fondant. After watching the tutorial video online, I decided to buy The Mat and give it a go.

Straight out of the tube, The Mat must be seasoned with Crisco or similar. That was done easily enough by wiping down the insides of the vinyl sheets with a small amount of Crisco and a paper towel. I did that and was ready to cover a cake.

I kneaded some fondant till it was nice and soft then flattened it slightly and put it in between the 2 vinyl mats. Sweet Wise recommend using a rotating rolling pin so I used that and tried their “starburst” pattern of rolling. This is where you just use the last quarter of the pin to roll outwards from the centre in a starburst shape rather than up and down. It did work reasonably well, but I felt it was a lot harder to get an even thickness this way. So I switched it out for my 20″ non-stick acrylic rolling pin using the up-and-down rolling method, which is how I usually roll out fondant. But it felt a lot harder than usual to roll out this way using The Mat. Then I discovered I could hold the pin still and just push it up and down rather than roll it, and this seemed to work a lot better for me. Though I got a lot of static shocks from the vinyl which was annoying. I didn’t take any photos during my first use of The Mat, so I have added some photos of a recent small cake I covered.

Fondant rolled out between the two sheets of The Mat

Fondant rolled out between the two sheets of The Mat

After rolling out the fondant I peeled the top vinyl mat off and flipped the fondant onto the cake using the bottom mat.

Top layer peeled off, ready to stick to the cake. The fondant is stuck nice and securely to the bottom sheet.

Top layer peeled off, ready to stick to the cake. The fondant is stuck nice and securely to the bottom sheet.

 

Lining up the bottom edge with the side of the cake to place the fondant on the cake

Lining up the bottom edge with the side of the cake to place the fondant on the cake

 

Laying the fondant on the cake

Laying the fondant on the cake

Peeling the mat off the fondant was surprisingly straight forward and it came off very easily.

Peeling The Mat off the fondant

Peeling The Mat off the fondant

I then secured the top by rubbing it with my hand, then started to rub the edges down starting from the top as per the tutorial video.

Smoothing the fondant down over the cake

Smoothing the fondant down over the cake

 

All done! Cake is covered with fondant using The Mat.

All done! Cake covered with fondant using The Mat.

 

However, I found that I still had problems with tearing on the top edge of my fondant. I also noticed that there were a lot of little holes (pock marks) and creases in the fondant. I hadn’t seen this as the side that goes face up on the cake is the bottom of what you were rolling out and I hadn’t checked it. I was very disappointed but decided to persevere and try again for the next cake.

I found this time I didn’t have quite enough fondant, but adding extra was so easy because of the moist freshness of the fondant in between the vinyl sheets. The extra lump of fondant I added to the middle blended in without any lines or creases. I also flipped the mat over this time after rolling out to the required size and gave it a bit of a going over, then peeled this side off so the side I had spent most of my time smoothing was now going to be face up on the cake. This worked a lot better, and it was a near perfect finish! I also rolled it out slightly thicker and this time there was no tearing.

Sweet Wise promises that The Mat gets better once it’s broken in after a fair amount of use. I have now been using it for a few months. At times I felt like giving up on it because I kept getting pock marks and creases, but I persevered. I’m glad I did! I got better at using The Mat each time, and it definitely makes a difference after many uses. It starts to become softer and more broken in so it’s easier to roll up to store in the tube without getting any creases in it. I now use it for covering all my cakes. It’s been great since having the baby to be able to leave it in the middle of rolling out when I need to see to my child.

There are still occasional pock marks, I have to be very careful of this and sometimes peel the top mat off and roll straight on the fondant with the rolling pin to get the creases and holes out. And there is still some tearing of the top edge of the fondant which is very disappointing as I like to roll my fondant out nice and thin. I can only avoid this by rolling a bit thicker than I like to. The static shocks however did go away after about 10 uses. I do find it easier to use a rotating rolling pin with The Mat so for smaller cakes I use that instead of my acrylic pin.

If you are interested in The Mat, you can check out the excellent tutorial video and purchase it from the Sweet Wise website here:

http://shop.sweetwise.com/mat-featured-product/the-mat.html?q=buy-the-mat.html

 

Oh No, It’s the Pinky Ponk Cake!

Wednesday, September 19th, 2012
3D Pinky Ponk cake

My 3D Pinky Ponk cake. The balloon and basket are made from cake, all the details apart from the foam balls are hand crafted from sugar

Now that I am a mum, I’ve suddenly found that I am making a lot more children’s cakes than I used to. This is partly because a lot of my friends have also just had children, and mostly because I’ve met so many other mothers recently through mother’s groups, playgroups, swimming classes, etc. And at each party where I’ve made the child’s birthday cake, there is almost always another mother there who likes the cake and wants one for their child’s next birthday party.

But there is nothing quite like making that first birthday cake for your own child. My little girl recently had her very first birthday party and of course I made the cake. I have to confess that part of me thought, oh man, do I have to, I’m so busy and so tired already and it’s not like she’s going to know or even care about the cake at this age! But sooooo many people have said to me that my daughter will have the best birthday cakes with me being her mum that I felt I HAD to do it. And once I got started I ended up loving it and am so glad I made the effort.

I decided to do a cake based on my daughter’s favourite TV show, In the Night Garden. I’d seen loads of cakes with Iggle Piggle, Upsy Daisy and Makka Pakka. I’ve even made a first birthday cake before with a hand crafted sugar Makka Pakka on it. But I wanted to do something different and a little bit more challenging for my little girl. And as with most of my great ideas, I hit on the idea for this cake while mulling it over in the shower!

I decided to do a 3D Pinky Ponk cake. I had a long think about how to actually do it, and once I thought of a way to construct the cake, I was raring to go and very excited. I studied pictures and watched videos of the Pinky Ponk to get all the details right – I never thought I’d know the Pinky Ponk so intimately! Turns out it’s quite a detailed blimp. Rivets down the ends, little purple propellers scattered around the sides, rows of orange wings, round balls with lights round the middle, pink balls of different sizes on both ends of the balloon, a big pink propeller at the back – it was a lot to do!

The little propellers and orange wings were made from fondant mixed with tylose powder (in other words, gumpaste) so they would set nice and hard and be strong. I also made the large pink propeller from this homemade gumpaste. I decided to use foam balls covered in fondant for the round balls on the top and for the nose as I was concerned about the weight if they were made entirely of fondant.

Gumpaste wings drying

Gumpaste wings drying. I added the line detailing while they were still wet.

 

Gumpaste propellers drying

Gumpaste propellers drying

 

Large gumpaste propeller

Large gumpaste propeller. The hole the dry spaghetti went through to secure it to the cake was made with a skewer while still wet.

I attached the wings using royal icing. All other details were attached using dry spaghetti. The rivets were just small circles of fondant stuck to the balloon with water. The cake board was covered with fondant to look like a blue sky with white clouds (it is a flying machine after all). I cut out a door and window from fondant and stuck them onto the basket also with water. The final touch was to create a banner out of fondant and cut out some lettering for it from gumpaste. This was then attached to the basket with water.

And voila, a 3D Pinky Ponk cake is born!

Back view of my 3D Pinky Ponk cake

Back view of my 3D Pinky Ponk cake

This was definitely a challenging cake to make, but I really enjoyed it. There was a lot of time spent working out how to do certain parts of it, and sometimes the method I came up with didn’t work out and I had to think of another way to do it then start that bit over again. But now that I know what works and exactly how to make this cake I should be able to shave some time off. But it will still be a lot of work!

And I have to admit that my daughter didn’t seem to really notice or care what the cake looked like lol. However some of the slightly older children who were 2 years plus knew exactly what it was and there were many cries of, “Mum, I want a Pinky Ponk cake for MY birthday!” :).

Sydney Style vs London Style of Cake Decorating

Wednesday, April 4th, 2012

As some of you know, I started my cake decorating career while I was living in England. By the time I moved back to Australia, I was well practiced in the basics of covering a cake with my home made fondant and I could do it reasonably quickly. When we came back to Sydney, I had to start the cake business up again pretty much from scratch and build up a new client base. But that wasn’t the only thing that had to be started again. I practically had to re-learn everything I knew about covering a cake!

What I hadn’t realised is that there is a definite difference in the style of cakes in Australia vs the UK. And the methods to achieve that Australian look are very different to what I was used to. There are some cake decorators here in Oz that do use the British style, but the more high profile ones such as Planet Cake or Sweet Art make their cakes in what I think of as the Australian style. And to be quite frank, I love the Australian style of cake decorating and I much prefer it to the British way. So I was determined to learn this new art.

So what are the differences between Australian and British cakes? One of the most noticeable differences is that the cakes in Australia are taller. In England, a standard cake is 3 inches high. In Australia, the industry standard is 4 inches! This made quite a difference to my recipes and costs, as I had to increase the amount of cake batter I was using per cake to achieve that extra inch. This changed cooking time as well. There was quite a bit of experimenting to find the right ratios for ingredients to get to 4 inches and the correct cooking time and temperature to cook the cake all the way through without over baking or creating a thick crust.

Another big style difference (and this for me was the biggie) is that the cakes in Australia tend to have a sharp edge. Cakes in the UK have rounded edges. What do I mean by this? Take a look at the image below.

Sharp edge vs rounded edge on cakes

The cake on the left has a sharp edge (Australian style), the cake on the right has a rounded edge (British style)

See what I mean? To achieve this sharp edge, there are several things that are done. Firstly, instead of a buttercream crumb coat underneath the fondant, a generous coating of chocolate ganache is used as it is much firmer and stronger than buttercream. Secondly, a much thinner layer of fondant is used to cover the cake. Thirdly, after covering the cake, two fondant smoothers are used to push the top edges of the fondant on the cake out to make a nice sharp edge.

So I had to learn how to ganache a cake. Ganache is great instead of butercream under fondant as it gives a beautifully smooth finish without the lumps and bumps. However, it is quite tricky to use! You are supposed to create a very sharp edge with the ganache coating as a base for your fondant’s sharp edge, not an easy process. It was a pretty steep learning curve for me, especially since I was so used to buttercreaming cakes. It takes me a lot longer to ganache a cake than it ever did to do a buttercream crumb coat. And chocolate ganache is a lot more expensive to make than buttercream! To get a good consistency you really need to use couverture chocolate with 50-60% cocoa solids, which is quite pricey compared to compound or cooking chocolate, and lots of pure cream.

Ganched cake with sharp edge

One of my ganached cakes. Perfectly ganached cakes are essential to achieving a sharp edge with fondant.

The thin layer of fondant wasn’t such a big deal to me. In the UK a pretty thick layer of fondant is used to cover cakes to help hide the lumps and bumps as it is much harder to achieve a smooth surface on a cake with buttercream. But I have always rolled my fondant much thinner than the industry standard in the UK as I got reasonably good at achieving a fairly smooth buttercream crumb coat. A lot of cake decorators who use buttercream don’t spend as much time trying to get a smooth finish and compensate with a really thick layer of fondant. I find cakes taste much better when less fondant is used, so I worked at my buttercream crumb coating so I could use a lot less fondant. Despite already having a pretty thin layer of fondant on my cakes already, to achieve the sharp edge I did have to go a bit thinner.

I did end up having to switch to a ready made commercial fondant. The icing sugar available here in Australia is made from cane sugar. The icing sugar readily available in England is made from beets. They have quite different textures and consistencies. My tried and true fondant recipe just would not work with cane sugar. The humidity and heat in Australia didn’t help matters. I finally had to concede defeat after several months of experimenting with my fondant recipe. It was taking up way too much of my time and was fast becoming commercially unviable. After trying out several different brands of ready made fondant, I chose the one that tasted the best and was reasonable to work with. I was actually quite surprised this fondant tasted as good as my home made one!

Another thing I found was that I had to use a lot more fondant to cover my cakes, as now they were an inch taller. So for some of my larger cakes of 10″ or more, I found my non stick rolling out board wasn’t big enough anymore. I ended up investing in The Mat by Sweet Wise (more on that in another post very soon).

It takes a lot more time to cover a cake when using ganache instead of buttercream as a lot of setting time is needed, up to 3 days. Ideally you make the ganache on day 1 and leave it overnight to set. Day 2 you do your ganache coating on the cake then leave it overnight to set again. Then on day 3 you hot knife the surface and the edges for a perfect finish, then leave it to set for yet another night. With buttercream, it was pretty much a case of making the buttercream then slapping on your crumb coat straight away then covering the cake with fondant all on the one day. I do cheat a little and cut the ganaching process down a day by putting the ganached cake in the freezer for 10 minutes then doing the hot knifing.

It took me aaaaages to learn how to create the sharp edge once the fondant was on the ganached cake. I eventually worked out that you have to kind of pinch the the edge of the fondant with one smoother on the top and one on the side.

So now it takes me longer and costs me more to cover a cake. But I do feel the look of my cakes is more stylish and sophisticated since adopting this style. I love the results, like this cake below!

Anemone wedding cake in the Sydney style

One of my Sydney style cakes with 4 inch high tiers and sharp edges

 

Sugar Figure Tutorial Video

Monday, January 17th, 2011

Welcome to 2011!!! The last few months have been very busy for me, I do apologise for not writing more blog posts recently.

I’ve had many requests for more tutorials on this blog, in particular for sugar modelling and sugar flowers. I’ve also been asked if I teach classes. Unfortunately I don’t have the capacity to hold classes at this stage, but it is something I hope to do in the near future. I do find it much easier to explain how to do certain things by showing how it’s done instead of trying to describe it in words as I do on this blog. To that end, I have created a Delicious Cake Design channel on YouTube with videos of my creations and tutorials.

The Delicious Cake Design YouTube channel can be found at this URL:
http://www.youtube.com/user/deliciouscakedesign

I do find making the videos is very time consuming, I do all the shooting of the videos and editing of the videos myself. With my busy schedule, I’ve only managed 2 videos showing a couple of my creations and 1 tutorial video on how to make a simple sugar person. The sugar figure tutorial has proven to be very popular! Hopefully I will get some more time soon to make some more tutorial videos, I have quite a back log of tutorial requests!

Meanwhile, here is the sugar figure tutorial video for you. Hope you like it!

How to Make a Sugar Gonzo

Friday, October 15th, 2010

As promised, here is a post on making my Muppet & Sesame Street Toy Box Cake characters! For this cake I created 7 Muppet and Sesame Street characters from modelling paste by hand and made a chocolate cake toy box covered with fondant. I studied lots of photos on the internet of each Muppet and made them based on these so I don’t have any explicit written instructions. I will try to explain here how to make Gonzo.

My Muppet & Sesame Street toy box cake

My Muppet & Sesame Street toy box cake

There is no need to do the full bodies of the characters, you only need to make the heads, upper torsos and upper arms as these are the only parts visibly sticking out of the toy box. Below is a picture of the characters before they were put in the box so you can see what I mean.

My hand made sugar modelled Muppet & Sesame Street characters

My hand made sugar modelled Muppet & Sesame Street characters

To make the Muppet and Sesame Street characters, I used home made modelling sugar paste (aka gum paste). To do this is very easy, you will need fondant (aka sugarpaste) then just knead in some gum powder to add strength and cause the fondant to dry harder faster. The most commonly used gum powders are gum tragacanth and CMC tylose powder, I used Wilton Gum Tex powder for my characters. These are all readily available from specialty cake decorating supply shops. For coloured modelling paste, you can either buy coloured fondant or use edible paste colours such as AmeriColor or Sugar Flair to colour it with.

If you can get your hands on Squires Kitchen Sugar Dough, I highly recommend it. The consistency, large variety of colours, and ease of use are superb. Even if you just get white, you can colour it. I haven’t found anywhere to buy it cheaply here in Oz so I am making my own modelling paste.

Regardless of what modelling paste you use, make sure to keep it wrapped securely in a plastic bag at all times when it is not being used to stop it from drying out. Just take a small bit that you need to model with and leave the rest wrapped in the bag.

To create Gonzo’s head, colour some modelling paste a mid-blue for his head and body and a little bit of paste a paler more purpley blue for his nose. Roll an oval shape from the mid-blue and rough it up a bit for a fur texture using a small scalpel. Roll the paler paste into a fat sausage, flatten one end to make his mouth area and curve the other to make his nose. Use some sugar glue to stick this part to the bottom of the front of his head. Take a small scalpel and cut in a curved mouth on the flattened area. Below you can see the start of Gonzo’s head plus the finished Kermit and Rolf.

Finished Kermit and Rolf and the start of Gonzo's head

Finished Kermit and Rolf and the start of Gonzo's head

Roll some white modelling paste into 2 balls to make the eyes. Glue them on top of Gonzo’s nose. Roll some black modelling paste out very thinly and cut out 2 really small circles and carefully glue them onto the centre of the eyeballs. Gonzo’s eyelids consist of a blue lid on the bottom and a yellow lid on the top. Roll out some mid-blue paste and cut 2 thin strips. Glue them onto the top of his eyeballs, following the curve of the ball. Repeat with some yellow paste, sticking it on top of the mid-blue eyelid.

Adding Gonzo's eyelids

Adding Gonzo's eyelids

To create Gonzo’s body, take some mid-blue paste and roll it into a long sausage, then flatten the ends to create the torso. Give it some texture as you did for the head to create a fur effect. Cut through the sides to create arms. Roll out some yellow paste into a strip and use a circle cutter to cut a circle from the middle, then glue it onto the body with the circle on the top to make room for the head. This allows a bit of the blue fur of the torso to show above the top of the neckline of his shirt.

Gonzo's body

Gonzo's body

Apply some sugar glue to the top of the torso and stick Gonzo’s head on. If he isn’t staying put, you can take a short length of dry spaghetti and use it to secure the torso and head together by inserting it into the top of the torso with a bit sticking out the top, then sticking the head onto the torso with the top of the spaghetti passing through the bottom of the head. I found I didn’t need to use any spaghetti as the heads stuck on well on their own. Here is the finished Gonzo.

My finished Gonzo sugar model

My finished Gonzo sugar model

Here is a picture to help you get started on making Fozzie. You can see his torso in the background before it’s been roughed up to look furry. His hat is sitting on the board, as are his eyes and nose. His head is sitting in the foam flower former.

Creating Fozzie

Creating a sugar model of Fozzie

Making a Fruit & Chocolate Stacked Wedding Cake

Tuesday, July 27th, 2010
My final cake in London - a 2 tier double height stacked wedding cake

My final cake in London - a 2 tier double height stacked wedding cake of fruit & chocolate cakes

My final cake order in London was for a wedding, which was such a nice way to leave London! It was a big order too – wedding cake, cupcakes, and mini cheesecakes. The wedding cake comprised of 2 double height tiers, a 6 inch fruit cake tier and an 8 inch chocolate cake tier. I don’t get a lot of orders for fruit cake (or double height tiers) so I thought I’d blog a bit of a step by step guide on the creation of this cake to show the differences between covering a fruit cake versus covering a chocolate or sponge cake.

For the top tier, I baked two 6 inch fruit cakes. The good thing about fruit cakes is that they can be baked and decorated reasonably far in advance as they keep for so long unlike sponge or chocolate cakes, which are the  two most popular cakes I make. I made a HUGE amount of white fondant and coloured it a cream colour, reserving a little of the original white to create circles with later on.

To cover the top tier, I first had to cover each cake individually with fondant (normally I would use marzipan but the bride’s brother has a nut allergy). I’ll go over this process now for the first cake.

The very first step is to turn the fruit cake upside down and secure it on the cake board with some royal icing or wet scraps of fondant. The bottom of your cake always has a nice flat surface with fewer lumps and bumps which is better to cover and decorate. The top of the cake often has a small “hump” caused by the sides of the cake cooking faster than the middle due to contact with the heat from the tin. So when you place the cake on the board upside down, this hump causes a small gap between the cake edge and the bottom of the cake board. To fix this, take a piece of fondant or marzipan, whichever you are using, and roll it into a sausage shape then wrap it around the bottom of the cake to fill in the gap.

Next up, I inspected the fruit cake for any large holes and patched these with small bits of fondant. Then I used my smoothers to make sure the fondant bits and the bottom sausage of fondant were lying flush with the surface of the cake. Doing this should give you a nice smooth surface to cover with the marzipan/fondant.

Patching holes in a fruit cake with fondant

Patching holes in a fruit cake with fondant

After rolling out the fondant I then brushed the cake surface with sugar syrup. This does 2 things – helps to make the cake more moist and makes the surface sticky to help secure the fondant.

Brushing fruitcake with sugar syrup

Brushing fruitcake with sugar syrup

Then I covered the cake with the rolled out fondant and trimmed it to size, then went over it again with my smoothers. I covered the second fruit cake with it’s first layer of fondant as well then left both cakes overnight to dry.

The next day, I stacked one fruit cake on top of the other, using royal icing to secure the cake board of the top cake to the bottom cake, then I brushed the cakes with sugar syrup and covered them both with one big, thicker layer of fondant to create the illusion of one very big cake. White ribbon was wrapped around the base of the cake.Then this was again left overnight to dry.

While the fondant was drying, I cut out some circles from white fondant and let them dry slightly as well. Once the fondant on the cake was nice and set, I used sugar glue to stick on the circles, very carefully measuring the distance between each circle and the distance of each circle from the bottom of the board to make sure they were all accurately spaced and at the same height. This sounds easy but takes quite a while if you want to be exact! I found a side scribing tool very useful in height placement.

Circles accurately placed on the top tier

Circles accurately placed on the top tier

Once all the circles were on, I made a batch of royal icing and filled a small piping bag fitted with a number 2 tube with some of the icing. Then I piped small dots around each circle in a kind of starburst pattern. This can be quite time consuming, especially on a larger cake. By the time I had done both the 6 inch and 8 inch tiers my arms were quite sore!

Piping dots around the circles on the cake

Piping dots around the circles on the cake

Close up of the dots being piped

Close up of the dots being piped

The next day, it was time to bake the two 8 inch chocolate cakes to make the bottom tier. I cut each cake in half, secured one to a cake board with wet fondant, brushed each layer with sugar syrup, then stacked them on top of each other with chocolate buttercream in between each layer. Notice that I did not put a cake board in between cakes or layers, this cake is quite light and spongy so the cake boards were not necessary. Here is a picture of the first 3 layers stacked and buttercreamed (yum):

Stacking and buttercreaming the chocolate cake layers

Stacking and buttercreaming the chocolate cake layers

Then I covered the top with chocolate buttercream, smoothed it out with a large palette knife, then put loads of buttercream on the sides. Using a turntable and a metal side scraping tool, I got the sides as smooth and perfect as possible. I didn’t have to patch any holes here with fondant, firstly because you don’t get as many large holes due to lack of fruit and nuts in the cake, and secondly the buttercream will fill any holes that are present. If you get the buttercream incredibly smooth you don’t have to roll the fondant out as thickly as there are virtually no lumps and bumps to hide with a ghastly thick layer of fondant.

Very smooth buttercream coating allows you to roll fondant thinly

Very smooth buttercream coating allows you to roll fondant thinly

I let the buttercream crust, rolled out a reasonably thin layer of cream coloured fondant, spritzed the cake with water to make the buttercream slightly tacky so the fondant would stick to it, covered the cake with fondant then placed the ribbon around it and left it overnight to dry. I repeated the circle sticking and dot piping process, then inserted dowelling rods to support the top tier. The top tier was a monster, weighing in at 2.5kg, so I decided to err on the side of caution and used my usual 4 dowelling rods near the edges of where the top tier would be plus an extra one in the middle.

As the top tier was unusually heavy I also decided to be cautious in transporting the cake too and transported the tiers in separate boxes and stacked them at the venue. You can see the dowelling rods in the pic of me assembling the cake at the venue below (they’re the white “dots” in the middle of the cake):

Stacking the cake at the venue

Assembling the cake at the venue

Here is a pic of the finished cake along with the cupcakes I made on the dessert table at the wedding reception:

The cupcakes and wedding cake at the wedding venue

The cupcakes and wedding cake at the wedding venue

The bride left a lovely comment about my cakes on my Facebook page the day after the wedding, which was so sweet of her. She seemed really pleased with my work, which makes me so happy! A great way for Delicious Cake Design to end it’s tenure in London wouldn’t you say!

Squires Kitchen 5 Day School – Day 5: Flowers

Friday, July 16th, 2010
Me, Alan and my sugar peony!

Me, Alan and my sugar peony!

Today was the last day of the Squires Kitchen 5 Day School with Guest Tutors and the class was Sugar Flowers with Alan Dunn. I have one of Alan Dunn’s books on making sugar flowers, and in fact use his techniques to create many of my sugar flowers, so I was looking forward to picking up some hints and tips you don’t get in his books. We were all smarting a little after the blitz attack that was the modelling course, so I was a little apprehensive today, but it turned out to be a refreshing, fantastic class with an excellent, world class tutor.

For the sugar flower class we were going to be making a peony. Alan firstly demonstrated to us how to create the peony petals, then it was our turn. We started off by creating some formers out of paper towels. We then coloured some white sugar flower paste pale pink with a tiny bit of a very strong plum coloured craft dusting colour, then kneaded it to make sure it was nice and pliable. Alan had shown us his technique for rolling out the paste to achieve a tapered ridge in the middle. First you roll a bit of paste into a cone, then flatten it slightly before rolling out the top part quite flat. Then you roll at an angle on either side of the middle. It’s a great technique I will definitely use again. Then, using a peony petal cutter, we cut out petal shapes with the ridge in the middle, 10 large and 5 medium. Here’s one of the petals I cut out:

Cut out petal with ridge in the centre

Cut out petal with ridge in the centre

A hooked 26 gauge white wire with a little bit of sugar glue was then inserted into the ridge and the end pinched to secure it to the wire. Using a silk veining tool, we veined the petal on both sides, then frilled the edges. The bottom edges near the wire were softened with a ball tool. The petals were then draped over the formers. Here are some of my completed petals:

Some of my wired petals

Some of my wired petals

Next up we were shown how to dust both sides of the petals using the plum coloured dusting powder and a wide flat brush. The aim was to dust quite a strong colour at the base then lighten it as you moved towards the middle. Here are my petals after dusting:

My petals after dusting

My petals after dusting

After lunch we moved on to making the peony centres. Using green cold porcelain, we inserted small balls onto 26 gauge white wire and rolled them into cones, then pinched a ridge on one side and curled the top. These were then taped together with pale green florist tape:

Peony centre created from cold porcelain

Peony centre created from cold porcelain

We bunched together some double tipped white stamens and glued the bunches together in the middle using non toxic craft glue. These were cut in half then glued to the bottom of the cold porcelain centres. We dusted the bottom of the stamens the same plum colour like so:

Peony centre with stamens dusted with plum

Peony centre with stamens dusted with plum

And then dusted the tips with sunflower yellow and the tops of the green cold porcelain with lime green. Then it was time to tape together the petals. The medium sized petals were placed around the centre first and taped together with green florist tape. The larger petals were placed around these, taping a few at a time. Here is Alan showing us how to tape the petals to the centre:

Alan Dunn showing the class how to tape the flower together

Alan Dunn showing the class how to tape the flower together

The end result was quite stunning if I do say so myself! Here is my completed peony:

My completed sugar peony

My completed sugar peony

Alan also showed us how to cut out leaves, vein them, and stick them together with florist tape. He also showed us how to dust them using aubergine on the tips, overdusting with forest green, then overdusting again with lime green. It was just about time to go after that, and as I already have used Alan’s book to create leaves using these techniques, I decided against staying late to create them in class.

I really cannot praise Alan highly enough. Not only is he a great teacher but he is such a lovely person too! He correctly gauged the pace of the class and offered as little or as much help as each individual needed. He explained everything really well and had lots of tips and tricks for us. It was a relaxed and fun atmosphere. And he has such an amazing talent! It was a great way to end a fabulous (and exhausting) week at Squires Kitchen.

Making a 3D Snoopy Kennel Cake

Monday, July 5th, 2010

Last week I made a 3D cake of Snoopy lying on top of his kennel and it is possibly my new favourite cake. It consisted of a kennel made entirely of cake, with a sugar modelled Snoopy a lying on top of the roof with a little sugar modelled Woodstock perched on his tummy.  I had a very similar Snoopy money box as a child which I loved, so I jumped at the chance to re-create it in cake. It was a fair bit of work, but I loved the end result and it was a big hit!

To make the kennel, I baked a 10 inch square madeira cake. I tried creating the kennel at first with butter cake and it was a disaster, really horrible to carve. It seems madeira is a lot easier to work with if you are going to be carving to make a 3D cake. I halved and buttercreamed the cake, then took a sharp, long bladed knife and cut off bits to make a triangular roof shape. I did this quite precisely, measuring length and angles as I went to ensure a uniform and balanced roof. Here is the roof (you can see some of the bits of cake that were cut off in the background):

The roof of Snoopy's kennel carved out of cake

The roof of Snoopy's kennel carved out of cake

I took the remainder of the cake and did a little bit of measuring and carving to create as perfect a rectangular piece as I could for the kennel base. I spread buttercream over the top of the kennel base and stuck the roof on top of it like so:

The kennel cake assembled and ready to cover

The kennel cake assembled and ready to cover

Then it was just a matter of crumb coating and covering the base with white rolled fondant, colouring some fondant red and covering the roof, and using a knife and a ruler to cut some shallow lines along the fondant of the roof and kennel base. I then left this to dry.

While the kennel was drying, I moved on to creating the sugar models of Snoopy and Woodstock. I did each bit of them in separate parts – the head, nose, ears, torso, arms, legs, etc were all done as individual bits. I included little details such as indentations on Snoopy’s paws to show “toes” and “fingers”, and little feathers on Woodstock’s wings. Woodstock was quite hard to make as he was so small and very fiddly! After they had dried a little I used sugar glue to stick Snoopy together and secure him on top of the roof and did the same with little Woodstock. Here’s a close up of the assembled Snoopy and Woodstock:

Close up of sugar Snoopy and Woodstock

Close up of sugar Snoopy and Woodstock

Next I took a tiny bit of fondant, coloured it black, rolled it out thinly and cut out an arched doorway which I sugar glued on one side of the kennel. I then coloured the remaining white fondant green and covered the cake board. While the fondant on the board was still wet, I took an icing tip to it to create grass texture.

And voila! Here is the finished product, a cake of Snoopy and Woodstock on top of Snoopy’s kennel:

Sugar Snoopy and Woodstock on top of a kennel made of cake

Sugar Snoopy and Woodstock on top of a kennel made of cake

Air Bubbles Under Fondant aka Cake Farts

Sunday, May 23rd, 2010

Recently in London the weather has been warming up (shock horror!) which has been causing havoc with some of my cake making. Those of you who work regularly with rolled fondant (called sugarpaste here in the UK) and buttercream know that heat can be your worst enemy when it comes to cake decorating.

Our flat, in typical London fashion, has heating but no air conditioning. The kitchen is near the back of the apartment, as far away from the windows as you can get. So on a warm day, it’s like an oven in the kitchen, somewhat ironically. One of the tricks I use when it’s warm and my buttercream is melting is to put my cake in the freezer once it has the crumb coat on. Just for a little while to let the buttercream get nice and stiff so it doesn’t move around when I put the rolled fondant on it. This usually works really well and helps me achieve a nice smooth covering on the cake.

However, using this method in the heat has meant that recently I have been getting small air bubbles on some of my cakes. This is unusual for me, but not a big deal as I can usually smooth them out without too much difficulty. But then of course, there was the one time this week when it was an absolute disaster!

I made a cake and left it in the freezer for far too long – about 40 minutes! When I covered it with fondant, everything seemed fine. I got a nice smooth covering on the cake and left it to dry. I came back an hour later and found a small air bubble under the rolled fondant. Not a big deal, I smoothed it out and transferred the cake to the fondant covered cake board, cementing it securely to the board. I left it for a half hour then went to put some ribbon around the cake while the icing was still slightly wet. And I nearly fainted when I saw it!

There was not one, but two HUGE air bubbles under my fondant!!! Mice could have crawled under there and set up camp they were so big! (Please note: I do NOT have any mice in my flat). It was a deformed, bubbly  mess. The back of the cake reminded me of a witch’s hooked, crooked nose, and the top of the cake looked like the elephant man. It looked like something that belonged on the Cake Wrecks blog!

I have covered quite a few cakes with fondant in my time and NEVER had this happen before. Which prompts me now to explain how it did happen this time. When you cover a cold cake with fondant, small pockets of air are released as the cake warms up and returns to room temperature. This causes a bubble of air to be trapped under the fondant. It’s what we call in the biz a “cake fart” as the cake is releasing gases! This had been happening a little with my cakes recently due to them being put in the freezer then taken out into a very warm room. A small air bubble is no biggy, but if you have a very cold cake in a very warm room, your air bubbles will be particularly bad and ginormous. Which is what happened in this situation as I’d left the cake in the freezer too long!

So how did I fix the problem? Removing the fondant and re-covering is really a very last resort, especially when you’ve already fixed the cake onto the covered board. So what I do is sterilise a very thin pin or needle, then poke a small hole into the air bubble at an angle. I then get my cake smoothers and push the air out of the offending bubble, then smooth over the area with the paddles. If the hole is very noticeable, you can cover it with decoration such as a flower or ribbon, but if it’s somewhere on the cake that isn’t going to get covered with decoration, you can also mix a small amount of rolled fondant with water and fill the hole in, then smooth with your smoothing paddles. And voila, it’s like your air bubble never existed!

I don’t have any pictures of the cake fart disaster to show you as I was in such a panic at the time that I didn’t even think to grab my camera and document the moment. But here are some pics of another cake which had an air bubble which I fixed with the pin method:

Before – you can clearly see an air bubble has formed around the wooden post

After – air bubble, what air bubble?

 

UPDATED 2016: This is by far my most popular post! I’ve noticed that some of you are confused between cake farts and normal air bubbles. The cake fart is different to a normal air bubble, it’s caused by a dramatic enough difference in temperature between the fridge/freezer and the room temperature and it usually forms some time after you’ve covered your cake if you covered a cold cake. So you’ll cover your cake perfectly and come back later to find HUGE air bubbles that weren’t there before.

Many cake makers cover cakes straight from the fridge or freezer with no problems because the room they take the cake out into from the fridge/freezer isn’t too hot. I usually can’t because it’s so hot and humid in Australia and I don’t have a temperature controlled room (no air con, it’s brutal!). I use ganache instead of buttercream now and always cover a room temp cake so cake farts are a thing of the past.

Normal air bubbles form straight away as you cover your cake. I get these either because I missed a spot when wetting my ganache before covering the cake or the fondant didn’t quite stick down to the surface in a spot when covering the cake, these air bubbles are usually quite small (cake farts can be humungazoid). I don’t know any cake decorator that doesn’t get these kind of air bubbles, but they’re easily taken care of with the pin trick as soon as you cover your cake. Air bubbles are all but impossible to get rid of once your fondant has set hard.

Check out the comments for other people’s ideas and solutions.